With the beginning of July (can you believe that’s already next week?) arrives the 150th anniversary of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg.
It lasted from July 1-3 and involved 160,000 soldiers on both sides, with casualty estimates (also for both sides) ranging from 46,000 to 51,000. Civilians hid in their homes as the fighting happened around them.
Although the Battle of Gettysburg is considered a turning point in the war—it put Gen. Robert E. Lee was on the defensive—the Civil War dragged on for nearly two more years.
The astounding numbers of dead at Gettysburg led to the establishment of the Soldiers National Cemetery there. At the cemetery’s dedication on Nov. 19, 1863, President Lincoln eloquently spoke the 10 sentences we know as the Gettysburg Address.
If a visit to the Gettysburg battlefield (perhaps for the 150th anniversary commemoration) isn’t on your agenda, you still can pay a virtual visit to honor the memories of your Civil War ancestors and see the world through their eyes. Here are some ways to do it:
- The Civil War Trust’s free Gettysburg: Devil’s Den & Little Round Top Battle App for iOS and Android (find a link to the app here, plus FAQs for using it) has maps that show where units were in these areas at key points of the battle, plus information and videos describing the events. If you’re touring Gettysburg, the maps are GPS-enabled to show your location on the battlefield.
- The companion website for the Civil War documentary by Ken Burns uses battlefield maps to show you troop positions.
- You can find more digitized battlefield maps at the Library of Congress website, including “Copy of official plan of Gettysburg. Pennsylvania, fought 1st, 2nd, 3rd July 1863” and “Map of the battlefield of Gettysburg.”
To find more maps, type Gettysburg into the search box in the LOC’s Civil War Maps collection home page.
- Visit the Gettysburg Foundation website to view photos of the Gettysburg Battlefield and the Gettysburg Cyclorama—French artist Paul Philippoteaux’s 360-degree, life-size “painting in the round” by that depicts Pickett’s Charge.
- See photos and soak up history (and plan a visit, if you’re lucky enough) at the Gettysburg National Military Park website.
- The Stone Sentinels website shows you photos of more than 1,200 Gettysburg Battlefield monuments to units, individuals and others; plus farms and other buildings. You can browse monuments to units by the state where the unit was raised, or take a tour using a monument map.
- The Nationwide Gravesite Locator lets you search for burials of veterans and their family members at Gettysburg National Military Park (choose Gettysburg from the Cemetery dropdown menu and then enter at least a last name).
Did your Civil War ancestor fight in the Battle of Gettysburg? See the July/August 2013 Family Tree Magazine for our seven-step guide to researching Gettysburg ancestors.